There were times, standing with her lover at the helm of his beloved Black Pearl with the wind tugging at their hair, that Buffy felt like she'd spent the last several years adrift in a fog. Jack wasn't the only one who'd been going through life determined not to care too deeply about anything. It was a miracle they'd even found each other in the first place: the former pirate captain separated from what he loved by his own choices, playing neutral Immortal power broker; and the Queen Slayer too burned out from the fight against the First to properly accept responsibility for what she'd done.
But they had found each other. And after she'd acknowledged her heritage, after she'd heard the legends about her boyfriend's original identity and realized what it all meant... between her own reawakened sense of wonder, Calypso's challenge, and the sad and terrible look in 'Giacomo's' eyes when every time the subject of her ancestors came up, something had had to give. The wind had changed; their course had been forced to change with it. So much was inevitable.
What hadn't been inevitable, though-- what no supposedly all-powerful entity could actually dictate-- was the joy that the change had brought in its wake. She wrapped her arms around her captain's waist as he steered, resting her cheek against his back between his shoulder blades, and breathed deeply of sunshine, warm pirate, and fresh ocean breeze. It would probably be the only cruise they'd take alone-- she'd been talking to Giles about taking on some of the more troubled younger Slayers and their Watchers as crew, to reduce distractions and wear them out while they better adjusted to their circumstances, and Dawn wanted to take a turn-- but while it lasted, she planned to enjoy it.
"My grandfather said the Pearl used to be the fastest ship in these waters," she mused. "But he was never sure whether it was part of the magic, or if the rumors were just exaggeration."
"Well, he can go on wondering a while longer," Jack replied, a smug note in his voice. "Seeing as we won't be needing any of my tricks on this trip. It's as if the whelp has been missing me, after all."
For a moment, Buffy wondered what the heck he was talking about; then the slightly choppy surface of the sea off to starboard swelled and burst into sun-spangled droplets of foam. A very familiar ship rose out of the disturbance, streaming water from every porthole, deck, and sheet of canvas as it settled. Buffy had seen the Flying Dutchman once before; it looked more intimidating up close, its deck rising higher than the Black Pearl's and sides bristling with cannon ports, but she could see a familiar form waving down from the deck.
"Told you he said so," she replied as she turned to wave back.
"Because no son of the sea ever told a polite fiction to a lady ashore," Jack replied, steering the Black Pearl onto a parallel course with the Dutchman. The words were as snarky as ever, but she could hear something else under them; a hint of nerves, a dash of wry fondness.
"Speaking of polite fictions. Hold this for me, would you, luv?"
"Jack?" Buffy frowned, taking the wheel as he stepped out of her arms. "What are you doing?"
He'd given her a few lessons when he'd first reclaimed the ship from Calypso's care; not that they'd actually spent the whole time going over the mechanics of sailing, but she at least knew the basics of keeping the Pearl on course. So she started stripping her belt off-- because like heck she was going to stand there while he got himself into mischief on his own.
"Keeping a promise," he called back. Then he strolled across the deck to the railing where Lindsey McDonald had been standing, white-knuckled, for most of their short journey out of port. "I gave my word he'd get his hundred years before the mast, if yon Ferryman concurred. But as the Dutchman's captain only makes offers to the dying...."
"Jack, you can't be serious!" Buffy yelled after him, annoyed.
He'd always been a little... theatrical... as Giacomo, but that tendency had only increased after Jack regained his mortality. Most days she found it fun and weirdly charming; but occasionally, it reminded her of Giles' old frenemy Ethan Rayne and his love of chaos, not an image Buffy wanted to associate with her boyfriend. Finally giving Will Turner a chance to retire was one thing, but killing someone else to make the offer, even an irritating toerag of a someone who'd caused several people she loved a lot of grief, seemed like an ill-omened way to go about it.
Lindsey looked up from the water, a little green around the gills, and glared at Jack. "Should've known there'd be a catch. But I'm from Oklahoma; I played cowboys and Indians as a kid, not pirates and sea monsters."
"Well, that was short-sighted of you, now wasn't it," Jack tsk'ed, giving Lindsey a mad grin. Then he gripped the man by the back of his shirt and lifted, wiry muscles straining against his struggles.
Lindsey's feet were about eighteen inches off the deck and still rising toward the rail when the sound of creaking wood announced a new arrival behind them.
"Jack, Jack, Jack. You know, if you wanted my attention, all you had to do was ask."
Lindsey's boots met deck again with a loud thump, and the knot of tension unwound from Buffy's shoulders. So that was what Jack had been thinking; she might have known. Some days it seemed like his mind was a maze of twisty passages, and she hadn't yet found the key to the map.
"Thought that's what I was doing, mate," Jack shrugged, gesturing to the ghost-crewed ship as he turned to face the new arrival. "Tradition, and all that."
"As I recall, you were never much of a one for tradition," the Dutchman's captain bantered back.
"Except when it suits me," Jack's grin widened. Then he stepped forward, arms wide; Buffy's many-greats-grandfather echoed the motion, slapping Jack's back heartily in a macho hug.
"It's been a long time," Will said more seriously when they pulled apart. "I'd almost given up hope of ever seeing you again, until Calypso brought me word that you'd retrieved the Pearl. Whatever happened to freedom from death?"
Jack shrugged. "What's freedom without the things that make said freedom worthwhile? No Pearl, no partner, no point for me compass, no eunuch to race beyond the edges of the map?"
"If I were a eunuch, you wouldn't have a partner, remember?" Will chided him, with an air of fond exasperation. Then turned to Buffy, giving her an approving nod. "You kept your promise."
Buffy finally finished strapping the wheel to make a crude autopilot, then stepped down to the boys' level for a hug of her own. "I am a Turner," she replied, in lieu of welcome.
Strangely, her ancestor smelled less like the sea than Jack had, even before shedding the mask of Giacomo; he reminded her more of heated metal with a dash of cedar shavings. He gave off less of an impression of immensity than he had at their last meeting, too, as though he'd toned down his priest-of-Calypso vibe; it made him less awe-striking, but much more approachable.
She wondered if Lindsey would wear that heavy aura instead, after they changed places... if they changed places. But she suspected it took more than lip-service to Calypso to earn. Buffy had never been one to bend the knee to the Powers, hence her still being alive at all, but she respected that Calypso still gave a damn about the folk in her service, unlike the Ones who chose Champions to fight demons in their stead. She might be a changeable, sometimes dangerous goddess, but Calypso had been good to Will Turner and his descendants overall.
...In fact, she had interfered on his behalf, more than once. So what did it mean that she'd encouraged this meeting to happen, when she had to've guessed that Jack Sparrow would never let Will carry on as the 'last true pirate in the world' without him? Did Calypso have a task ashore that a mortal Will Turner could better serve? Did she have some sudden use for a magically immortalized former scum-sucking lawyer? Or did she just expect Will to reject the offer?
"You are," Will agreed, clasping her shoulders as he stepped back. Then his smile turned wry as he glanced between her and Jack. "So I expect you'll understand when I ask, why are you really here?"
"I can't have had a hankering to see how squidfaced you'd gone in my absence?" Jack's eyes widened as he stroked casual fingers over his goatee.
Buffy sighed as Will's expression shifted toward annoyance; boys. She'd have thought hundreds of years of experience would give them a little more maturity-- if she hadn't seen Angel and Spike pull the same kind of pissing match, time after time.
"He wasn't asking you," she cut them both off. "But that's... kind of on point? You became the Captain of the Flying Dutchman because there had to be one. And because there wasn't any better option-- for you or the ship-- at the time. But the last guy went nutzoid...."
"Because he was promised a limited term of service, and Calypso failed to release him from it." Will finished for her, shaking his head. "But I knew what I was in for; and she's told me that difficult times approach, when she'll have even greater need of dedicated hands. She may be mistress of the seas, but her power is not unlimited, and there are those who plot to destroy any authority other than theirs in this world."
Lindsey sucked in a breath. "She ever mention a name?" he asked. "Like, say... Wolfram and Hart?"
Will's brow furrowed, and the sky darkened, the light puffs of cloud skimming across the blue heavens suddenly thickening into a ruffled sheet of pearlescent gray screening the sun. "You are their servant?"
"Was," Lindsey stressed. "Was. These morons dragged me here on the promise I could duck my contract for a century if I joined your crew. But from the sound of things, that ain't what they really had in mind-- and either way, it'd just put me right back in the crosshairs."
"I suppose I was wrong, then," Jack scowled at Lindsey. "Your noodle is as limp as all the others'."
"Not helping, dear," Buffy swatted him with the back of her hand. "You're in pirate negotiation mode; lawyers give more points for fancy wordwork than insulting double entendres, remember?"
"It's parlay!" he objected.
"Parlez, whatever. And we did kind of spring it on him." Then she raised an eyebrow at Will. "Did Calypso actually say your hands had to be aboard the Dutchman? Or could she use them somewhere you might finally get to live again? What about your freedom?"
The man Calypso had dubbed 'the priest of all the seas' narrowed his eyes at her. Then he took a deep, cleansing breath; and as he calmed, the sun broke through the clouds. The scar on his chest, exposed by his open shirt, caught the light as though limned in gold.
She wondered if it would go away after his heart was restored; Davy Jones' heart had needed stabbing because it was the only vulnerable part of him, but a voluntary surrendering should work just as well. Metaphysically, it was the Captain-to-be conquering the Captain-that-was that mattered, just as Buffy had been able to close Glory's portal in place of Dawn.
...Oh, and that was something else she hadn't thought of; the Turners had kept Will's heart. Who'd keep Lindsey's? Angel? She bit back a smirk, and tried one more thing.
"Come to our side, we have rum cookies?" she said, widening her eyes beseechingly.
"Eternity does grow a bit stale," Will replied after a moment, echoing Jack's recruitment speech to Lindsey. Then he reached for Lindsey's forearm. "I... think your friend and I have much to discuss. Perhaps the next time we meet, I'll finally get the chance to see your sister again?"
Lindsey swore; and both men faded into the deck without another word.
So much for the reunion. At least their other goal seemed to have succeeded. "That went well. I think?"
"Like whelp, like grandwhelps," Jack snorted, whipping off his scarf and swinging it in her direction. A sudden gust of wind caught it just right, sweeping it around Buffy's waist to carry the far end into his other hand; she rolled her eyes at the 'coincidence' as he used it to draw her in.
He leaned forward, eyes fixed on her lips, until they were almost sharing a breath... then paused, a sudden frown wrinkling his brow. "But if you're down here, who's steering the Pearl?"
Another gust of wind ruffled the sails, and Buffy grinned, shutting him up with a kiss.
She had a feeling they'd be seeing her great-grandfather again, soon enough.